This was a fun game to watch as a Storm fan. And since I brought several guests to the game, I appreciated it even more. ;)
Somewhere in the 4th quarter as we were blowing the game wide open, after eking our way to a tough 10-point lead at the end of the 3rd, I thought it felt like for the first time this season that we were finding our new 2011 Seattle Storm identity for the first time.
For one thing, as of last night we’d played (and lost) enough games to basically get the taste of 2010 out of our mouths, because let’s face it: no matter how much we logically know it’s a new season, it takes experiences like losing (including losing at our Key Arena fortress of a home), to emotionally understand that this is a new season, or to feel it in your bones.
But similarly, we’d experienced enough success to realize that there’s still great potential for this team. It’s one of the reasons I was feeling pretty good as a fan at the end of our recent 1-2 road trip. We played some tough teams, in some arenas where we have trouble ever winning (
Connecticut, where we competed, and where we didn’t as well, perhaps due to mental and physical fatigue at the end of our road trip). We also won the game we should have won in DC, and looked fantastic doing it. It was a good combination of performance to build from, and I was eager going into the Indiana game to see where we were at against a Western Conference opponent against whom we will be battling for a play-off spot this season, and also returning home. Sparks
To start off with, one of my guests was a cute 5-year old attending his first Storm game. You’ve gotta start them young! Those who know me may have wondered why I was sitting on the Storm bench pre-game with several young people, but I was there legitimately, and I was only accompanying one of the children…basically just to show him back to his seat afterwards, since he was insistent that he didn’t need an adult with him! :D It was an interesting perspective watching shoot-around from down there, though mostly I could only see the
, of course. :-/ They hustled us through the tunnels under the stands, though "authorized personnel only" areas. 8-) Lisa Brummel saluted the Jr. Captain…I think I was more entertained by that than he was, since he was completely focused on getting to where we were going and had no idea who she was. But it was fun…until poor Lauren came hobbling out with two hand crutches. :( I agree with descriptions by other Storm fans that it was like a puppy in a cage. She was in good spirits when she came out to the bench, though. And would get up and crutch herself over to the team huddle during the game, though their was a sort of forlorn "outside looking in" flavor to it. She was right in the middle of the huddle post-game, though, so I felt a bit better about that. Meanwhile, I practically ran into Jenny Boucek as well! So it was fun. And my young guest enjoyed himself also. Win-win. Sparks
Having my normal pre-game routine disrupted, I did a double-take when Ebony Hoffman and DMJ went to center court as LA’s captains. I actually made a note of the fact that Tina Thompson is either clearly further in Gillom’s doghouse than I’d thought, or is just becoming further than further disconnected from the
team. :-/ Sad to see it happen to a Legend. Despite that tip off, it was also weird to have LA’s starting line-up consist of Quinn, Toliver, DMJ, Hoffman and Lavender. Only Candace Parker was listed as injured in the pre-game Viriginia Mason Team Medicine Report, so I didn’t think it could be due to injury. I had to conclude that it was some new motivation technique or weird substitution pattern dreamt up by Gillom. Or gamesmanship. Sparks
Noelle Quinn despite having burned us in the past, was didn’t make an impression on me this game. Toliver was decent. She had a bunch of turnovers, but she also hit some crazy 3-pointers with Tanisha’s hand right in her face. I can’t remember her defense particularly bugging Sue, but then Sue is pretty much burning everyone lately. 8-) Every time I see DMJ lately, I marvel at the way she seems to defy the ticking of the clock. Sure, she was up to her old ridiculous tricks that incensed the crowd of Storm fans as much as ever, hooking elbows, and taking a dive like she was Greg Louganis, usually out of bounds. ::) Sigh. I wish she didn’t pull those stupid non-basketball antics so much. I swear on one of those she tried to hook and move Willingham with her elbow, but knocked herself off balance instead. ;D Sadly, with Cameron Inouye, Tom Mauer and Clarke Stevens as our distinguished and talented officiating crew ;) the predictable result was that they bit on it every time (an amusing side note: when talking to my various rookies salted around Key Arena, they all said that the fans around them had remarked upon these refs by name prior to the game…the fact that the fans knew their names and predilections surprised my guests, and I was proud of my fellow fans 8-)).
I don’t remember much about Hoffman. I know she played some defense. Lavender was the one really bright spot for the
, which is probably the best result one could expect from Gillom’s crazy stunt. Not too surprising that she would, given the size of the Storm front line (or should I say undersize?), but once Ashley Robinson checked in Lavender didn’t find things going so easily for her, and was clearly bothered by our long-armed, blue-haired Arob. Sparks
Tina Thompson and Ticha Pinichiero rather shockingly came in off the bench. Whatever the result Gillom expected, I’m not sure it was Tina looking absolutely terrible in her limited minutes (airballs, turnovers). Ticha seemed to weather the storm the best of the three of them, since as I type this on Sunday night, the news has come out that Gillom was fired and replaced by past
coach, and her assistant at the time, Jellybean Bryant. I honestly thought it was only a matter of time for her, anyway. She always seemed to be good at motivation and caring (to a degree…though her vets might tell a different story), but weak on Xs and Os. Ticha was really being offensively aggressive out there, taking and making shots. Of course, on her first three I turned to my other rookie-fan companion (I had 3 rookies with me tonight!) and said that if the Sparks were banking on winning on Ticha’s outside shooting, the Storm would give them that all night. You know it’s true. :D Sparks
I think Lacy brought some energy off the bench. She didn’t always make wise decisions (or keep her eye on the shot clock), but she was active on defense and put a couple of shots up to go with a couple of steals.
The Storm stuck with their normal no-LJ starting line-up (normal lately, that is) of Le’Coe Willingham and Camille Little in the post. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to have A-rob start, and keep
Coco coming off the bench. I know in the past A-rob has flourished in those situations. However, she also seems to have developed a knack for coming in off the bench with some instant energy this year, particularly defensively. And we need that, and no foul trouble, so I’m not going to question Coach Agler.
Besides Le’Coe in for LJ, the rest of the starting line-up consisted of Swin Cash, Sue Bird and Tanisha Wright. Swin and Sue performed as brilliantly as they have lately. One of my favorite things this season—the past couple of seasons, actually—has been to watch Sue work to run this team. She was dropping some shiny dimes tonight, and her shot does not seem to have deserted her.
It’s helpful that she has Swin out there as her wingman (meant in the most gender neutral way ;)). I don’t know how Swin does it, but she’s been eating up opposing defenses lately. Of course, the Mystics and the
aren’t really known for their post defense lately, but that doesn’t negate the amount of effort Swin is putting in on the court. She’s been one of the Storm players most consistently willing to mix it up and draw the foul, and she’s really perfected the up fake that’s either a prelude to a jump shot, or a drive to the basket, often with the bonus of a foul. 8-) Sparks
Camille had a tough night with the refs, so we only got to marvel at her arsenal of post moves a couple of times, but good things usually happened when she touched the ball. And streaky Tanisha had another good night. I hope she builds confidence with this win. She needs to be driving to the basket and drawing fouls and opening up lanes like she was. When I say "find our identity" as a team, I think that Tanisha’s play is one of the best indicators of whether that has occurred. If she has a good game, usually we’ll win. If she doesn’t, it’s a crap shoot. She seemed really comfortable out there. The porous defense of the
no doubt helped, and the Mystics coming up will hopefully build on that, but you have to take what you can get to build confidence, you know? Sparks
One of the most exciting developments of the night, helping us blow the doors off the game late (it was not as close as the score shows…and that’s a hefty margin of victory, particularly against a Conference rival) is Katie Smith finding her shot. I know that some fans have been down on the trade that ultimately sent Erin Phillips to
Indiana, and netted us Katie from DC, particularly after Phillips played with such energy and gave us fits in , but she’s continually contributed on the defensive end. And while her shots weren’t falling, she wasn’t taking ill-advised shots for the most part. You always felt like it was only a matter of time. On the broadcast Adia talks about how tightly you start playing as a shooter when you keep just missing, and also how a foot or leg injury can throw your balance, and thus your shot off. But Katie has been working hard all season, really competing, so when Sue passes up her own 3 to pass to an open Katie on the wing…for another brick…I try not to wince, because this should pay dividends down the line, right? Against LA it finally did. Indiana
It’s all another sign of us finding an identity, I think. Shooting a decent percentage from the floor, and particularly the perimeter we can see what this team can be. It fills me with more confidence as a fan, and I’m sure it helps the players as well. Now if we can only do this consistently, and also against higher quality opponents. We’ve beaten both the Lynx and the Mercury this season…we only have yet to face the streaking Silver Stars. I’d like to see us build on this success, and execute against a good opponent, but baby steps.
We started the game off right with a Tanisha steal on the
opening possession (they won possession on the tip) for a quick lay-in to sit us down. Ah, it’s nice to sit down quickly at the beginning of games. ;) Our half-court offense looked a little shaky early, but our defense was holding the line fairly well, particularly when it allowed us to tip balls and get out in transition. With Sue on the floor our fast breaks are usually like butter, and tonight was no exception. Swin was also really working hard early, battling for rebounds, hitting some quickly shots, and getting tied up with Hoffman for a jump ball. Of course, LA controlled the jump, because Swin completely miss-timed it, but no one’s perfect. ;) Sparks
LA still managed to squirt out to a little bit of an early lead, though, off some Storm misses, and a lot of Lavender offense, and some Toliver shots. Halfway through the quarter there were less than 20 points total on the board between the teams, and it seemed like it may remain a fairly low-scoring contest, with the Storm having to work hard for all their points, due to still missing shots, but a fairly robust defense. Even Sue got a block, which she controlled herself, to the special delight of the bench, highlighted by Katie Smith laughing out loud and slapping the floor with both hands in celebration (and probably not a little disbelief).
The highlights of the quarter were probably a couple sweet Sue passes, one to Swin in the paint when it seemed Sue was trapped and would have a hard time passing out of it, and another to Tanisha on the break when it seemed to everyone that she was probably going to pass to Swin, who had run down and immediately posted up hard, except that Swin and Tanisha basically forked, so Sue looked at Swin, then passed to T as she flashed to the basket: easy basket. There was also a good pass to Le’Coe in the paint. I think our post players are getting into a better rhythm as our primary offensive weapons. Also, I really enjoy the line-up with Swin is playing the 4. Of course we’re crazy short, but we’re also very agile and mobile. You know, you’ve got to be creative.
Sue sat briefly, but our offense stuttered a bit, and Agler quickly put her back in, and she quickly produced some additional offense, making a fist in triumph as she drew the &1. Oh, and I can’t forget Katie Smith’s long ball up the floor to lead Sue Bird to the basket! Katie was still very frustrated offensively herself, though, and it showed in her jawing at the refs. I thought for sure she’d get a technical called on her after she complained so long and hard and vociferously that Sue was running a 4 on 5 offense at one point, and then she continued out of a time out! ::) Oh, well. Snell came in and had a pretty looking stride down the lane for a lay-in as well. We’re definitely getting there. 1Q: 18-21, Sparks
The Sparks went to the free throw line quite a bit more than the Storm in the first quarter, partially courtesy of a 4-1 foul discrepancy (I made sure to point it out to the officials, don’t worry ;)). But it’s been a problem for a couple of our losses this season, so we were clearly coached during the break to stop being so passive this way and we started attacking the basket a little more early. When Katie Smith went to the line for a couple of free throws, I wondered whether that would help her get her touch back (hoping that it would). I also marveled at some of the crap fouls Swin would draw from other players, using veteran trickery. It’s nice to have a player who can do that, rather than only being victims of that. ;)
Thompson traveled, and the game production folks played "Walk Like a Man", which got a chuckle out of me. Ticha hit her 3. But then
Coco actually made one of her long shots! I was a little frustrated over the road trip at how many bricks she was tossing up, but I’ve also been aware of the fact that her random outside shots were a useful weapon last season. And coming from , she has been conditioned to shoot when open…anyway, she tied the game up at 28. 8-) Phoenix
The refs went to work as well, though, forcing Camille to sit with foul trouble, and calling some other questionable stuff, like one on T when I thought it was clear that Tina Thompson had lifted her pivot foot and should have been called for the travel instead. Tanisha got her own back by hitting two 3s in a row, though, getting the crowd to our feet. Two 3s from the same spot. Thank you sir, may I have another! Though I have to admit that I was a touch worried that we were settling for outside shots, particularly given our recent history: we can always go cold. :-/ ;)
They did Sue Bird Racing again during a game break (see details in Run-off below), and afterwards I thought it was rather appropriate that the song "Runaround Sue" was played in the arena. :D
Katie finally hit a shot from the floor off an offensive rebound, and threw her arms up in…relief? Frustration that it doesn’t go in more often? I don’t mind the emotion, though. :) We had some turnovers, one at the end that allowed the
to carry a lead into the locker room. The Storm players seemed to be looking to the refs a lot, questioning calls. Was Coach Agler disappointed, or excited that he would have something to harp on in the locker room? The first half was kind of exhausting as a fan because it was so close the whole way. It felt like a prize fight, or something, with punch and counterpunch. And sadly those late mistakes put us down going into the half. :( Our stats were very even with the Sparks . Like nearly identical. It was probably only free throws that put them up a bit over us. 2Q: 38-39, Sparks Sparks
The Rainbow City Band performed at half time, but first
Blue Nile has been sponsoring a contest where one fan wins a personalized Championship ring, which is pretty cool. They posted the videos of the two finalists up on the website, but they also showed them on the Arenavision, and invited people to vote for either Ashley or Robyn through texts.
Same starters for both teams going into the 2nd half (not surprising for the Storm). The Storm group was having some sort of chuckle with Cameron Inouye before the quarter started. Camille sat us down fairly quickly with a free throw. She only hit one of two, but we got the rebound, and Sue ended up with a sweet little jumper. Nice to see that stick around. Camille picked up her 4th on an Academy Award-winning performance by Ebony Hoffman. ::) Clarke always picks on someone in our front line. >:( Then DMJ jumped out of bounds and got Stevens to call an offensive foul on Le’Coe. It’s not good, but LA quickly picked up a couple of pretty crappy fouls as well, however. Or it was karma. ;) How about we just call good fouls, refs? Though they typically seem to tighten up at half time this season, so at least they’re consistent that way.
We were doing a good job generally of denying them the ball in the post, though their players were pretty consistently scoring if they got it in position, which happened plenty, keeping the game even, more or less. Similarly Swin was exploiting mismatches herself on the offensive end, though, going to town in the paint, probably at least partially in response to how tightly the refs were calling it. Not a bad strategy, however improbable some of her shots looked. ;) And we just kept grinding away. Instead of being down by 3-5 points, suddenly we were up by 3-5. We'd edge up a little more, up 5 ro 9, but the
doggedly kept competing, repeatedly shrinking the lead back to 5 points or so. We could never get over that mental double-digit lead hump and it was very energy intensive as a fan waiting for that golden moment. Sparks
So with the Sparks hanging around and we never seemed able to open up a more robust lead until finally a couple LA turnovers allowed us to open it up a little, including two fabulous passes to Swin on the break, first by Sue as Swin set a screen then rolled to the basket, while Sue faked a shot, then the same type of roll to the basket netted Katie Smith a sweet assist to Swin. The refs tried to dampen our spirits by calling some more touch fouls, one on Tanisha when DMJ came all flailing back into T after losing her balance. Katie Smith was hilariously acting that flail out for the refs. ;D Sue was laughing, anyway.
While Swin was beasting it up, another Katie Smith 3 rolled all.the.way.around the rim and out. :( It would have been a back-breaker too, finally getting us over that hump, I believe. And on top of that, I just wondered if we’d ever see her shot return? As a fan I kept hoping, but it's hard when your players are discouraged. She was taking the proper shots, in rhythm, just when she should be shooting. Sigh. Fortunately, Sue had us all feeling good going into the quarter break extending a 7 point lead to 10 with a 3 near the buzzer (using an excellent screen by Arob), giving us all the momentum in the world, the first time either side went up by double-digits! 8-) There’s just something mental about leading by 10 points or more, and the team got a standing ovation as they returned to the bench for a much-earned break. 3Q: 70-60, Storm
Lots of action to start the 4th. With momentum going our way, the Storm made the move to bust the game wide open at long last. Ashley opened up the festivities by missing a crazy lay-in off a spin move, but then tipped in her own miss! (stat padder :P) Tanisha was fouled driving to the basket and did and absolute superman belly flop on the end line. Ouch! She got up and made the free throws, though. Then Swin found her range from long, getting us to our feet with a 3, but the fans went nuts when Katie Smith finally, finally hit a 3 herself! Everyone’s hands went up in the air (including Katie’s) and LA was forced to call a timeout as the lead had suddenly exploded to 82-66! :)
Didn’t stop our momentum, though. I have no idea what Gillom told her troops, but after that timeout we didn't lose a step. And they didn't gain one, either. We forced shot clock violations, our defense was smothering, and we just really kept working, working so hard and taking whatever their defense was giving us, which was suddenly quite a bit. ;) Tanisha picked up her 5th foul, and had to sit down, with Ashley checking out at the same time, and a very appreciative crowd applauded her efforts (and Tanisha’s) enthusiastically. Smelling blood and feeling confident after a couple made field goals, Katie took and hit a 2nd 3! The crowd went crazy again!! Is Katie back? (oh please, oh please). But then Camille picked up her 5th and had to sit. :( Is that the price of Katie hitting shots: fouls on us? Camille got supportive applause, but what was even more exciting was that up by around 20, Kobryn checked in! She's big, and looks strong. Though she didn't really get a chance to successfully execute anything, she was in the right spots on the floor on plays, which is a big first step. :)
Everything started going in at this point for us, and LA just looked hapless. Helpless to stem our tide. We built like a 30-point lead. Plus, as our offense picked up energy, so did our defense. Though when Agler started clearing the bench, our offense started to look ragged as a result. With 4 minutes left and over 90 points on the board, the fans around me started chanting "100 points!" Sadly, with a bunch of ticky-tack fouls and some traveling in garbage time, and a discombobulated Deep Bench offense, it was not to be. :( With 99 points we dribbled out the final 13 seconds as "Another One Bites the Dust" began playing. 8-) But if we can build on this confidence game (and it doesn’t end up being all flash built on a hitting-bottom LA team and no substance), we could have another very successful season.
Swin was deservedly the Microsoft Player of the Game. She referenced how they were embarrassed in LA and really wanted this win tonight, apart from just wanting to defend our home court. Stepping up by committee is how we’re going to win games. And that’s what they had tonight: 4 players had their season highs: Swin, Katie Smith, Le’Coe and Tanisha.
After the Player of the Game interviews this year, they’ve been playing the 3 Dog Night "Joy to the World" as we exit the arena. :) It’s a fun little uplifting touch, to reinforce our positive feelings.
· The pre-game Community Spotlight was for the foundation to raise money to fight pediatric cancer called
’s Goal. Brandon was a big Storm fan who passed away at the age of 11 last year from cancer; his goal was to beat cancer. My other guests purchased tickets through Brandon ’s Goal and had a wonderful time as well. Brandon
· The anthem was sung by Camille Bloom, who had an amazing set of lungs as she belted it out in a nicely straightforward manner. It was nice to be across the arena from the flag this time so that I didn’t need to crane my neck to see it. ;)
· Another pre-game activity honored the
, with whom the Storm organization has teamed up in the Nothing But Nets charitable pursuit to provide mosquito netting to impoverished countries. United Methodist Church
· An exciting thing pre-game that I didn’t expect was Sue and Swin being presented with World Championship rings designed by Tiffany & Co. for winning the WC with the US National Team. 8-) More bling for their ever-growing collection. :)
· There were only like 6 members of the Storm Dance Troupe performing all night. Where’d the rest go? :( I figure vacations or something, but the rest were missed.
· There’s a PCC Healthy Kids Campaign going on this year, where they show PSAs during the game for healthy eating choices, often feature the Dance Troupe. They even tossed Healthy Kids t-shirts to the crowd between quarters.
· Sue Bird Racing made its 2nd appearance. I was kind of disappointed that we didn’t get to see a new mini-game, but SBR is a fun one, so I didn’t really stress it. We didn’t get the whole video with the players showing us how it works, just the fan contestants. I did finally figure out that the contestants’ legs are in the big bird puppets and the legs on the outside are stuffed, though. :D The chicken won again, but I think the duck might have won if its head hadn’t gotten caught in the ostrich’s reins. :o The humanity! The duck’s head was hanging by a thread as the contestant tried to get free! I hope no children were traumatized. ;)
· Army Parachute drop of t-shirts occurred in the 3rd quarter again. Does this happen every game? One of the parachutes got stuck up on the edge of the 2nd level, though.
· What song is the Swin Cash "mo money" sound effect sampled from?
· Robyn won the Blue Nile Championship Ring. Seems like the fans mostly voted for her humorous tone over Ashley’s more earnest tone. But it was sweet how teary Robyn, of the famous "Even Chuck Norris is Afraid of Lauren Jackson" sign, got when presented with her ring. I thought they announced in the arena that over 2000 votes were counted, but Dick Fain announced over 5000. 8-) A fun contest, and two great entries. Sorry you didn’t win, Ashley.
· The KONG broadcasts are fun because during some of the commercial breaks they show Storm videos.
· Kudos to the group of fans seated on the West side spelling out CAMILLE and TANISHA in big, separate, poster-sized letters. Well done.
· Catchings passed Pinichiero on the All Time Steals list in her game prior to ours. Hard night for Ticha, what with being benched and losing a record, though I’m sure she cares more about being benched.
· Adia brought up a good point in the broadcast: why don’t we chant for another teams besides LA? I know that I only started with "Beat LA" because they prompted me to. It’s nice to have a 3-beat chant. I don’t see why it couldn’t be adapted. Would it lose its cool factor if we also did "Beat the Lynx/Dream/Stars/Sun/Sky" or "Beat DC/Tulsa/New York/
"? (I can’t really make it work with the Fever). I mean, they (LA) haven’t been really good for lots of seasons, and though the Storm have a special relationship/rivalry with the Phoenix , pretty much every team does "Beat LA". Should Storm fans be more creative? Sparks
· I'm not sure, but I believe that Katie Smith leap-frogged back over LJ for 3rd on the all-time WNBA scoring list, with this game.